Resilience: Building our lives on firm foundations

Part 1 in the series looking at Resilience.

We will all face difficult and challenging times in our lives, this is definitely one thing that we can be certain of; but how we manage our emotions relating to these challenges and our reactions, has a lot to do with something called resilience.

So, what is resilience?

I looked it up in the dictionary, and it says that it’s the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, like an object springing back into shape after it is stretched – what a great analogy! 😊

What it is NOT, is burying or avoiding difficult emotions or pretending that all is ok with an ‘I’m fine’ face.

We’re not born with the ability to be resilient; it’s something that we have to learn and build upon as we go through life but as we develop resilience, it will help us to maintain our emotional health and well-being.

So how do we start to develop our resilience?

The best place to start is our foundations, our beliefs and values.

We recently had an extension built on our house.  To start with, the builders had to dig out the earth to lay the foundations that the building would sit on.  Our house is on a hill therefore the foundations had to be strong enough to not move once the garden was pressing against the house.  The strength of a building lies in its foundations.  They take a long time to construct and you can’t see them; but, as I spend time in the building, I’m very grateful that they are there holding everything in place!

The same principles apply to us.  Our foundations (what we’ve built our life upon) are our beliefs and values and they are an important part in helping us to cope during difficult and stressful situations.

We might think that our resilience is about how self-confident we are – if we feel able to do something well.  We might even look around at friends and their circumstances and compare ourselves to them.  Don’t be fooled! Sometimes people who have a lot of confidence can be struggling on the inside with self-doubt, low self-esteem and negative thoughts; they are just able to put on a show for other people. 

Resilience is linked to our self-esteem, the thoughts we have about ourselves.  Our self-esteem could be built on words that other people say to us like our parents, family, friends and teachers.  If we don’t receive positive comments then our self-esteem that has been built up by those we love and trust, can just as easily be torn down or shaken.

How can we improve our self-esteem and become more resilient?

 By working on our foundations!

There are a number of ways to do this, which we will look at, but first of all I want to look at a verse from the book of Ephesians in the Bible, in it Paul says:

‘How blessed is God!  And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him.  Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.  Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ (What pleasure he took in planning this!)  He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved so.’

The Bible – Ephesians chapter 1 verses 3-6 (The Message)

These few verses tell us that God knew us and had us in mind long before he created the world; before we were even born God had decided that he would adopt us into his family as his beloved child.  What difference does that knowledge make to how you feel about yourself; if you believe that you are God’s child and he loves you unconditionally?  Spend some time contemplating this thought.  

Ask God to show you how much he loves you.

This foundation, this belief that God loves you unconditionally and that you are his child, lays a solid foundation to build your life upon.

If negative thoughts creep in, or someone speaks negatively about you, you are then able to challenge that thought based on what God says about you in the Bible.  Look at some of these verses from Psalm 139:

‘God knows when you sit and when you rise’

‘God knew you in your mother’s womb’

‘There is no where we can go to escape God’s presence, wherever we go he is there.’

Negative thought processes can be very damaging to emotional resilience.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) says that what we think, influences how we feel, which influences how we behave.  Therefore, negative thoughts about ourselves may lead us to feeling low or anxious, which in turn may mean that we avoid certain situations.  Challenging negative thoughts by thinking through the facts of the situation, will mean that we feel more positive and are able to take on new or challenging situations.

One way to improve our self-esteem is to think about things that you are good at – everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.  We all have something that we can do easily and naturally, spending time doing something that you are good at will help to increase your self-esteem.

In this first section on resilience we have seen how what we think, our foundations, our values and our beliefs have a big influence upon our resilience.

In another one of Paul’s letter in the Bible, this time to the Colossians, Paul says:

‘And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him.  Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him.’

The Bible – Colossians chapter 21 verse 6 (New Living Translation)

Paul tells the people of Colosse that they should be rooted in Jesus and have him as their foundation, because then as the storms of life blow, they will have the foundations to stay upright.